I always thought I was good at keeping (back up) my personal data safe, but I was wrong.
My personal files were back up onto two HDD external hard drives, and in the space of 24 hours in July, both drives failed.
Windows 10 told me that one drive wasn’t working properly and kept offering to repair it, to no avail, while the other made a suspicious clicking noise and couldn’t be detected by the computer at all.
All of this got me thinking – as a consumer, what is the right way to back up your data, and what do you do if it goes wrong?
External Hard drives for back up
External hard drives are portable storage devices that are plugged into a PC. There are two types – hard disk drives (HDDs) that use spinning magnetic disks to store, back up data, and new, solid state drives (SSDs) that use chip-based flash storage technology.
If my computer dies, I will buy a new one, retrieve the data from the old laptop and transfer it directly to the new computer.
Yet once I started using an external hard drive, it was so easy to use that I started relying entirely on technology, and when I got another drive I thought my solution was incredible. ۔
When I got a new laptop a few years ago that had a very small but fast SSD hard drive, I wasn’t surprised – I just had to put most of the files on the hard drives, just a few used files Except on the laptop
So I was shocked when the drives failed. I turned to the internet but the online software tutorials didn’t help.
I started data recovery services and called all three based in London.
An engineer advised me to immediately stop trying to access the hard drive, which Windows said was not working properly.
“There was a logic failure in this drive, I was quoted as costing £ 250 to repair it,” he said. I could lose data completely if I keep trying to access the drive.
The drive was worse with click noise. It was a mechanical failure where the reading and writing head – the equivalent of a needle on a record player – needed to be changed. A repair will cost at least 500.
None of the other prices offered were cheap, except for Creo PC World’s Team Noho service, which quoted me as £ 90 for logic failure repair and £ 350 for mechanical or partial failure.
The retailer says there is no charge if data recovery fails. But you have to be patient when it happens, especially with epidemics.
I consulted with Western Digital and was told: “If a drive has stopped working, we encourage customers to contact their customer service team to identify the issue and discuss options.
“If the drive is found to have failed, our customer service team can assist with replacement products on a warranty basis, and refer the customer to one of our data recovery partners if needed.”
But since my drives are six and four years old, respectively, the only option was to pay for data recovery.
So what’s the right way to back up your data?
I asked this question to various data experts, as well as retailer Craze PC World and consumer device makers Western Digital and Seagate. Their advice was unanimous – keep three backups of your data and try to save at least one copy outside your home.
“My solution is to have three drives – one SSD and two HDD drives,” said Joseph Nagdi, chief data recovery expert at the London-based tech firm Data Recovery Lab.
“It’s very unlikely that three different hard drives from three different manufacturers will fail at the same time.”
He also recommends that people take a copy of data they don’t really want to lose, such as valuable family photos, and save it at a relative’s home.
Michael Cade, a senior global technologist at data management firm Weim, agrees.
“I have two large hard drives that I drive 30 miles to my parents’ house. I take a full copy of all the important data, put it on the drive and bring it.
“Then I have another hard drive that is always with me at home. I do incremental backups and possibly once a month, I take this drive with me and change it to my parents’ house.”
SeaGate told me that its drives have a data recovery service that covers logic failures. It accuses me of mechanical failure, but refuses to pay me.
Seagate’s customer technical engineer Gavin Martin recommends using uneven drives, or SSDs, for extreme sports, which do not break easily when dropped.
“It’s a critical part of machinery and parts eventually run out of time, depending on the environment in which it’s being used – more or less humidity, extreme temperatures.”
“You need to use the right drive for the right application. No brand in the world can guarantee the lifetime of your data.”
Dean Kramer, director of services at Deccan Carphone, who owns Craze PC World, says HDDs are still viable because you get four times more storage than SSDs.
However, the retailer is shifting its product range to more SSDs, “because the technology is much more stable.”
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What other topics did Jack Sullivan talk about?
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Sullivan urged Russia not to take advantage of the growing energy crisis.
He said Moscow had in the past used energy as a “tool of coercion and a political weapon” – but any attempt to use the situation to its advantage would provoke a backlash against Russia.
Mr Sullivan warned the British government that suspending the Northern Ireland Protocol for the Brexit deal would be a “serious threat to stability”.
He said any return to the strict border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was a matter of “grave concern to the United States”.